Evan Somers says he’s used to verbal abuse over his sexual orientation.
As a young gay man living in Dublin however, he wouldn’t let it get in the way of him enjoying the vibrant nightlife.
But in the early hours of one Saturday, that abuse turned into a devastating physical attack that has left him struggling to recover.
The 23-year-old had left The George, an iconic gay bar on Dublin’s Dame Street, and was looking for a taxi when a man approached yelling homophobic slurs.
“This lad just came up to me and started hurling abuse, calling me this and that,” Evan told Sky News.
“He started calling me a f*****, then eventually that led to him calling me a f***** with his fists in the air, as he was punching me in the face. He was hitting me, punching me, and knocked me out. That’s what led to my injuries.”
Evan was taken to hospital, where he learned he had sustained a fractured eye socket, and a dislocation and two fractures in his ankle.
“The bones in my ankle were basically smashed, so the surgeons had to put a lot of effort in to repair them,” he said.
Evan says he’s still struggling to come to terms with the attack. A rugby player with an all-inclusive team, the Emerald Warriors, he’s unsure if he’ll be able to return to the game because of his leg injuries.
Nobody has been arrested in connection with the attack, and even if the Gardai [Irish police] find the culprit, they would be unable to charge him with a hate crime, as unlike most European countries, Ireland doesn’t actually have a specific hate crime law on the statue book.
“I think it’s disgraceful”, Evan said. “Not just for myself, but for any victim of hate-related attacks. I think this bill, this legislation needs to be prioritised.”
He’s referring to the Hate Crime Bill, which has yet to make it to the Irish parliament, despite efforts to inject a sense of urgency into the process.
Just a few days after Evan was attacked, two men were murdered across the country in Sligo town. Gardai investigating the deaths of Aidan Moffitt and Michael Snee suspected a possible hate crime motivation.
At the time, justice minister Helen McEntee said she knew it had “been a difficult week for the LGBT community” and said she wanted to “reassure people that any crimes that are motivated by hate or prejudice or by discrimination, will not be tolerated, will carry higher sentences and I hope to introduce the hate crime bill in a matter of weeks”.
Two months later, the bill has yet to appear. A spokesperson told Sky News the bill, which will create aggravated forms of existing offences, which will carry “an enhanced penalty” and will “strengthen the law”. But they were able to say only that the minister will publish the legislation “as soon as possible”.
‘Need to do better’
“We’ve been waiting years for this legislation and I’m really disappointed and disheartened to hear that slip back in language from the department,” said Oisin O’Reilly, CEO of the Outhouse LGBTQ+ community centre in Dublin.
“Months ago, Helen McEntee was talking about introducing the legislation within weeks. ‘As soon as possible’ sounds like it’s been pushed down the political agenda and the minister and her officials need to do better.”
We met Mr O’Reilly as he met with police at Store Street station in the inner city. The series of attacks has made many in the gay community nervous ahead of the showpiece Dublin Pride parade on 25 June.
“I took over as CEO in Outhouse nine weeks ago, and in six of those weeks I’ve heard of violent assault against someone in the community,” Mr O’Reilly told us. “I can’t remember a time when it has been so prevalent, and I’ve worked in LGBT community all of my adult life.”
Racism an issue too
It’s not just those in the gay community calling for urgent action. Sharans Kabra is from India, but has lived in the Dublin suburb of Lucan with his wife for four years.
In that time, he’s experienced three serious incidents of racist abuse, including having stones thrown at him, being called “Ali Baba”, and being told “to go back home”.
“My message to the minister would be: make this an inclusive society for everybody,” said Mr Kabra. “A hate crime law is an absolutely necessity everywhere in the world right now, including a place like Ireland, which I want to call my home.”
The government promises the legislation, with its potential to act as a greater deterrent, is on the way.
For now, those that need its protection the most, continue to wait for Ireland to get its long-promised hate crime law.